Photo © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Kitagawa Utamaro, 1753–1806
The courtesan Hanaogi of the Ogi House, reading a letter
ca. 1794
Woodblock color print
H: 38; W: 25 cm
The Jacob Pins Collection in the Israel Museum
Accession number: B01.0502
Starting around 1790, the rise of Utamaro marked the beginning of an epoch in which he was the lodestar in a galaxy of woodblock artists. After producing a few portraits of actors, he turned to the portrayal of bijin (beautiful women). He enriched this genre by introducing the “large head” composition, which fills up almost the entire print with famous courtesans in close-up. His women, their elaborate hairdos rendered in exquisite detail, radiate grace and femininity. No artist had more insight into the Yoshiwara Pleasure Quarter than Utamaro, who spent a great part of his life there and knew the quarter and its people intimately.

The Jacob Pins Collection: Japanese Prints, Paintings, and Sculptures, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 1994

Digital presentation of this object was made possible by: The Ridgefield Foundation, New York, in memory of Henry J. and Erna D. Leir